another life How the Light Gets Lost

The Salvare prepares for the most dangerous part of the journey to Canis Majoris—navigation through the dark matter cloud—as not-Sasha’s mission to cripple the ship moves perilously close to success.

It’s taken a few stops, a couple deaths, and some ship malfunctions but the Salvare has arrived at the dark matter cloud. With a lack of light or reliable sensor readings to navigate them through the cloud, this months-long journey will be a manual process that will be taxing on the ship’s pilots: Niko, Cas, and the recently awakened Beauchamp (Greg Hovanessian, The Mist, eHero). The latter addition, with all his enthusiasm, has made things even more uncomfortable between Niko and Cas though, the bulk of that blame lies with Cas. Early on, her emotions are dialed up to where she alternates between pleading to get her job back to accusing Niko of having ulterior motives for her ‘demotion’. It’s an out-of-character move for Cas, though the root of her outburst is the same batch of plants that had Niko and Cas tripping on the uncharted moon in “A Mind of Its Own”.

Thanks to not-Sasha’s preparation, everyone who ate the dinner salad is affected, forcing Niko to leave the asymptomatic Beauchamp in charge, while everyone else must wait until the toxins are flushed from their systems. In the meantime, they make the most of it, dancing with holograms to club music and making romantic connections, unaware that not-Sasha is working under their noses to sabotage the mission.

The crew enjoys a meal together, ignorant of the traitor in their midst.
(Photo: IMDB)

When a series is limited to ten episodes, there’s no real room for filler content or extended scenes that do not propel the story forward. “How the Light Gets Lost”, though not a filler episode, wastes too much time trying to connect viewers with the romantic liaisons that have zero bearing on how the series turns out. The entire August/Javier/Oliver subplot has been a dud since day one, offering bits of respite from the overall narrative but when presented in larger doses, as is given here, one can’t help but lament to how a more substantive story could have helped this episode from being the forgettable, melodramatic mess that it is.

Even Niko’s admittedly compelling relationship with William, which greatly impacts the story, is sloppily executed. Part of this is how Another Life has handled William. On one hand, he feels just as real and human as everyone else on the ship, which is not a bad thing and does add to the compelling nature of him as an AI, not to mention the existential questions raised by his existence.  The problem is that the show has never really touched on his capabilities as an AI system, ranging from what he can and can’t do with the ship all the way to his emotional limits and programming.

Even if these are explored in the future, it doesn’t help “How the Light Gets Lost”, which is thus far the weakest chapter in Another Life, offering little in the way of value, unable to be saved by the final five minutes with its highly impactful, tension-filled moments as Niko finally realizes not-Sasha’s deceit as William and the Salvare shut down around them. As a viewer, it a painful and helpless feeling watching a series with potential cut into its own momentum with underwhelming or poorly executed subplots. The finish line’s still out there and though two episodes aren’t enough to raise Another Life something we’ll be eager to chat about on message boards, it’s still possible for the show to go out strong and, if the narrative leaves things open and the Netflix gods are willing, offer a case to get another crack at things in Season Two.

Towards Infinity

  • A major reason for Another Life’s inconsistency is that, out of all the relationships, none of the romantic encounters have worked. It’s a mystery, because all the other personal interactions work quite well; in fact, some of the show’s biggest strengths have been those moments between those of the crew that aren’t romantically linked. It’s not that they can’t do it either—the most heartfelt of the bunch isn’t Niko and Erik’s chemistry-deficient moments, rather Bernie and Zayn’s relationship that has, over the last few episodes, been written in a way that, while subtly, when they finally kissed, it was both rewarding and not a surprise. Romantic relationships, as we know, are a part of life, but when a show can’t hit those beats to sell their authenticity, those character moments end up becoming a weight around a show (or movie’s) neck, often dragging it down and drawing attention away from the narrative.
  • I’m sure we’ll get more information on what happened to William but, as an AI system—never mind the fact that some of the limitations he has on operating the Salvare make no sense—how the hell does deleting a patch of his memory, especially a patch with no bearing on his operational mechanics, cause him to have what, for all intent, is a psychotic break? Curious as it may be, it’s a frustrating turn, further hampered by my above issues with the show giving us precious little in the way of how he functions.
  • While most of the attention in the episode is focused on the Salvare, there are a few short scenes that take place on Earth. Erik gets horrible news when it’s revealed that the Artifact shockwave somehow irradiated Jana enough to onset her with leukemia. Soon after Erik confronts the Artifact, it spits out a bloodied and confused Harper Glass. It will be curious to hear her story and what she discovered while inside the bowels of the alien object.